Lessons in Leaving by Cody Vesley

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Lessons in Leaving


Your Grandmother was a magician.
She could breathe underwater,
she could fly,
and she could even change colors.

She taught you all of her tricks,
but the magic was never lost.

The last thing she taught you;
death is the greatest vanishing act.

Death creates a vacuum
where everything you love disappears.
Her absence was a top hat you hid emotions in,
because they made the tricks too painful to perform.


You were raised by ghosts.
Your parents perished to depression, drugs, alcohol, and abuse.
Their demons left nothing behind, but sunken skeletons
hollow like empty bottles.

You watched your mother drink herself into the ocean.
The more the world took,
the more room there was for liquid forgetting.
She became a sinking ship.

For the longest time,
you thought you belonged at the bottom of the sea.
The absence of love held you there like an anchor.
You swallowed numbness
trying to drown all the anger, pain, and self-loathing,
watching yourself drift away like air bubbles.


You fell in love with fireworks.
The way the sparks flew into the air
and lit up the night sky
made you feel like beautiful things
could appear out of the darkness.

The explosions made being destroyed look so colorful
and the smell of burning cardboard
reminded you of home.

You didn’t realize how fleeting the lights were,
or how playing with them could get you burned,
or how explosions would leave people in pieces,
or how cardboard boxes aren’t good places to live
and can catch fire so easily,

or how after all the fireworks are gone,
the silence of the night sounds like mourning bells
ringing in your ears as dark spots dance in your vision.

The quiet always sounds loudest once the party is over.


Hearts are like open doors.
People you love will come and go
like the swinging of a pendulum,
or a carrot at the end of a stick,
always running after something you can’t have.
People will walk into your house to make a sandwich,
but when there’s no more food,
it’s time to go back to their own home.
Always lock the door behind them.


Leaving is never hasty.
It is meticulous like the folding and unfolding of a paper crane.
You do it so many times that the creases become bones,
and when you try and straighten yourself out,
you always curl back into that bird that is so good at flying away.

People will try and put paperweights on you,
because you’ve become a flight risk,
but you are also steel, and fire, and storm clouds that cannot be pinned down.
No hurricane has ever had your name,
because no one will ever want to remember you.



Run faster than your doubts.
Run faster than your heartbeat.
Run faster than you can breathe.
Run faster than your memories.
Run until you forget why you’re running,
and then remember you had a reason.

Do not let regret weigh you down.
Do not slow down so they can say sorry.
Do not look back unless you’re looking at the sunrise.

There will always be a new day,
and endings birth beginnings.


You either leave first,
or you get left behind.

If you love something do not set it free,
because it will walk away eventually.

Appreciate what you have,
but never love something more than yourself.
It’s okay to walk away.


Burn all the bridges on your way out of town,
because the lesson in leaving is knowing you should never return.

Cody Vesley

Cody Vesley is a queer written and spoken word poet from Texas. His work centers around same-sex relationships, trauma, and mental health. He has written one collection of poetry, Usually About a Boy, and is working on his second. He recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and works in HR. Some of his favorite things include dogs, Tex-Mex, ranch, coffee, beaches, indie/alternative music, pokemon, and young adult fiction. More of his work can be found at usuallyaboutaboy.tumblr.com